Last update: March 2022
Looking for a well-designed shoe that offers top-notch performance? The Tenaya Tarifa is an innovative, versatile slipper that adapts easily to multiple climbing styles.
There’s not a whole lot we can criticize this shoe for. It does come at a higher price point, but this feels more or less justified. However, one thing we noticed was that the midsole wears out fairly quickly. Also, its narrow profile helps the shoe feel snug, but beware; for most, Tarifa is far too tight for crack climbing comfortably. Finally, some testers also noted that the shoe developed a relatively strong odor with use, too.
But, aside from these points, the Tarifa is one of the most comfortable and versatile climbing shoe models. If you’re looking for a pair of high-performance workhorse slippers, then the Tarifa should be at the top of your list.
- Comfortable right out of the box
- Easy to get comfortable fit with a speed lacing system
- Vegan friendly
- Sole doesn’t appear to have the most fantastic durability
- These shoes can develop a pretty strong, unpleasant odor!
- Not suited to crack climbing
Our Full Review of the Tenaya Tarifa Climbing Shoe
The Tenaya Tarifa is a high-performance, versatile shoe. Rather than specializing in one particular area or style of climbing, the Tarifa can do just about everything. So, if you’re looking for something uniquely technical or supportive, you may want to consider another model. However, if you’re in the market for an upmarket, everyday slipper, then the Tarifa may be for you!
The innovative design of the Tarifa sets it apart from its competitors. Rather than using conventional laces, the Tarifa utilizes a fast-lacing system. The Tarifa’s upper features a blend of rubber and synthetic leather. This provides a snug, comfortable fit while also maximizing sticking power on the wall. The Tarifa uses top-notch Vibram XS Grip rubber, which offers excellent sticking power and is generally reasonably durable.
The Tarifa is almost like a mix between a bouldering and edging shoe in terms of profile. It’s downturned, but not overly, and laces up, only halfway. This hybrid approach makes the Tarifa so versatile and arguably worth the steeper price you’ll find it at.
Men’s vs. Women’s Shoe
Another noteworthy aspect of the Tenaya Tarifa is its unisex design. So, there are no differences in color or design between a men’s and women’s model of the Tarifa.
Our Breakdown of the Tenaya Tarifa
Comfort, Build and Fit
Despite being a highly sensitive slipper, the Tarifa is a medium-stiff shoe. The Tarifa still offers excellent support, especially throughout the midsole. By striking the perfect balance between stiffness and precision, you get the best of both worlds. The shoe is supportive enough to allow you to tackle long, techy routes without fatiguing. However, it’s also soft enough to let you genuinely feel out edges and the smallest of features.
As a result of its design and profile, the Tenaya Tarifa is best suited to climbers with narrow feet. We noticed that the shoe is snuggest around the toes while slightly roomier at the forefoot and rear. Expect minimal stretch from this model; the Tarifa is broken in straight out of the box. Where wider shoes tend to leave narrow-footed folks unable to get a proper, snug fit while on the crags, the Tarifa molds to the foot like a sock.
As such a narrow lasted shoe, it’s crucial to get a proper fit with the Tarifa. Finding the perfect fit is important for climbing feel and for nailing technical maneuvers. Getting hold of the right size in the Tarifa wasn’t too tricky for most of our testers. You’ll likely want to go at least two shoe sizes down from your street shoes as with most sensitive climbing shoes.
The Tarifa is a very sensitive shoe. This lets you make very precise adjustments while on a route, and you get the sense that you feel each move. It’s also versatile enough to apply it to just about any style of climbing effectively. The Tarifa is supportive enough for trad climbing, technical enough for sport routes, and sensitive enough for bouldering.
As far as edging goes, we would consider the Tarifa one of the overall best shoes out there. The rand, in particular, offers excellent stability and support, and the toe box is also perfectly designed for edging. It keeps your big toe in prime position while you climb, so you can place your foot incredibly precisely while edging.
Smearing and Steep Terrain
Steep terrain is another area where the Tarifa truly shines. The Vibram XS grip rubber is super sticky, making smearing feel secure and effortless. While not entirely flexible, the midsole is just soft enough that you can dig in while smearing. Also, the shoe’s sensitivity means you can sink into even the tiniest of holds and pockets.
Using Vibram XS grip rubber, the Tarifa provides excellent stability and security for both toe and heel hooking. The heel cup is pretty sturdy, so you can bear your weight on it without worrying about it collapsing. Also, the toe box is quite aggressively downturned without being excessively so. This makes the Tarifa a fantastic option for toe hooking without compromising its performance in other areas.
While hardly a low comfort model, jamming is one area where the Tarifa may be less than ideal for some. One tester with wider feet found wearing the Tarifas on jam-heavy routes too painful. This was likely due to the Tarifa’s profile; being so narrow, it can put a LOT of pressure on the midfoot in certain positions. So, be mindful that this may not be the best piece of gear for you if you do a lot of jamming.
Use in Different Climbing Styles
The Tarifa outdoes itself when on sport routes and problems. It’s sensitive, downturned, and sticky, making smearing and edging a breeze. The midsole also offers excellent stability for more dynamic, riskier moves.
While not a specialized gym shoe, the Tarifa is more than up for the task. It’s generally durable enough to take a beating and versatile enough to tackle all kinds of indoor routes easily.
The Tarifa works like a charm on boulder problems with its somewhat aggressive, downturned profile and sturdy toe box and heel cup. Once again, the midsole truly shines when smearing, as well. This is also true of outdoor and indoor boulder problems, which is no mean feat!
Trad and Crack Climbing
The Tarifa makes easy work of most vertical trad routes. Unfortunately, cracks are a different story altogether. Most climbers will likely find the Tarifa very uncomfortable in cracks because the slipper is so narrow. It places considerable pressure on the midfoot in particular, which some testers found downright painful. If you have a very narrow foot, you may be able to get away with wearing the Tarifa in cracks, though.
The Tenaya Tarifa is a downturned, high-performance shoe best suited to athletes with a narrow foot profile. These are super comfortable and versatile climbing shoes that are at their best when edging and smearing. However, the Tarifa holds its own on boulder, indoor, and sport routes. Thanks to the Tarifa’s stability, you can easily edge and rest on tiny nubs and holds.
It’s worth noting that the Tarifa does come at a higher price point. However, we feel this is justifiable, given the versatility and performance of the shoe. It’s an excellent all-rounder that most climbers will get a lot of use out of.
While the Tenaya Tarifa’s strengths far outweigh its weaknesses, the shoe does have a couple of flaws that we should address. Some testers did have issues with the durability of the midsole. Also, the Tarifa is likely far too narrow for crack climbing for your average climber. The shoes are so snug that they put intense pressure on the midfoot, mainly when used on cracks. You may be able to get away with it if you have super narrow feet, but otherwise? We’d recommend a roomier model for avid crack climbers.
|Weight||5.9 oz/170 g|
|Sole thickness||3.5 mm|
|Activities||Sport Climbing, Gym, Bouldering|
|Level||Intermediate and Advanced|
Reference: Tanaya official website
Emily has been climbing on and off for years and is an avid follower of the sport. She has mostly focussed on sport climbing and bouldering, both in gyms and in the great outdoors in Australia, the UK, and the Faroe Islands. At present, Emily is mostly focussed on improving her climbing technique and bouldering at her local gym in Tórshavn, Faroe Islands.